Coronavirus Q&A: Tampa Bay doctors answer your questions, address concerns

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WLA) – As the coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, so do concerns about the virus.

It’s important to remember health officials say the risk to the general public when it comes to coronavirus is low at this point. 8 On Your Side wants to help you prepare, not panic. Two doctors from the Tampa Bay area joined digital anchor JB Biunno on WFLA Now Monday afternoon to answer questions and address concerns from our viewers.

Here are some of the questions that Dr. Deborah Trehy and Dr. Lynnette Ringenberg answered:

Should I be worried about contracting coronavirus if I have asthma?

Dr. Ringenberg: Yes in the sense I don’t know how old you are. Coronavirus, right now at least, is more on older folks – but not totally. And I think asthma is a risk factor, any kind of pulmonary condition would be a risk factor. So yes, I think it’s important to kind of stay away from crowded areas and watch, if you have symptoms of a fever and an increase in your cough to certainly contact your physician. Asthma is one of the chronic diseases that we would worry about.

Dr. Trehy: Like they’re suggesting, make certain you tend to maybe limit your crowded spaces. Use good hand cleaning techniques, wash frequently. And just the simple measures of hand sanitizing and washing your hands frequently is tremendous on limiting your exposure to the virus.

How long does the coronavirus live on inanimate objects or on surfaces?

Dr. Trehy: Actually, we probably really don’t know at this point. But we know from other viruses that are similar…that they can live for quite a while. Just make certain that you sanitize your hands and don’t touch your face. (It) relatively makes you safe from that doorknob. They have looked at different studies on stainless steel handles and it’s amazing how little organisms that actually stay on there. But definitely hand sanitize and don’t touch your face after walking around. We tend to do that a lot during the day.

Can I catch coronavirus from something like an ATM?

Dr. Ringenberg: I think, again, you’re just going to have to be a little more aware of that now and when you go to your ATM, wash your hands down afterward. Have an alcohol wipe and I think it’s important that the hand sanitizer should have at least a 60% alcohol content, so that’s important. Look at that. And I know all of us, we tend to scratch our face, rub our eyes, etc. So really keep your hands away from your face and, yes, wash your hands constantly just about if you’re out and about.

How long does the virus last in your system?

Dr. Trehy: I’m going to say (we probably don’t know) at this point. We know the incubation period is anywhere from two to 14 days, hence why the quarantine is up to two weeks to see if the person – once they’ve been exposed – whether they’ve actually contracted it. So there’s a lot about these coronaviruses – or this particular one – that we just don’t know yet.

Dr. Ringenberg: That’s absolutely right and this is a new one. The COVID-19, we really – it’s a novel, it’s a new, new virus. So there’s a lot we’re going to be learning about this virus. So every precaution you can think of I think is important to take for you and your family, your kids and especially your elderly parents or anyone with a kind of chronic disease.

What about pregnant women?

Dr. Trehy: Pregnancy is definitely – hopefully before or as you first became pregnant, you received your flu vaccine. We know this particular coronavirus is not covered by your previous flu vaccine. But pregnancy, because of the slightly-immunocompromise situation the pregnancy creates, this puts you at a greater risk to have more problems related to the virus, more pulmonary issues. So I think for pregnancy, to certainly be very thoughtful about your crowds and making certain that before you touch your face, you hand sanitize, wash your hands, be very conscientious because you certainly want to try to avoid this until it runs its course.

Should we be using masks on airplanes?

Dr. Ringenberg: I know just from what the CDC has said is they really do not help you if you’re healthy, you don’t have symptoms, they don’t help you or prevent you from getting the coronavirus. Now if you’ve got a cold or you’re a little sick, it doesn’t hurt to wear a mask so no one else gets sick. But as far as wearing a mask to prevent you from getting coronavirus, it does not help.

Dr. Trehy: Now if you have an immune compromise like you’re a transplant or something like that, perhaps if you’re going to go in a large environment that puts you at risk then I could certainly think that (a mask) is probably not a bad idea. But the CDC is suggesting that if you feel like you are sick, certainly you should stay home. But if you have to go out in a crowd, then it’s the sick (individuals) that are supposed to be wearing the mask. I know we all see it all on TV that everyone’s walking around with a mask but that’s not really necessary.

What about eating out at restaurants, is there a risk?

Dr. Ringenberg: I don’t think so. I mean, I think we have to live our lives. From what everyone is saying now, the experts are saying live your life, do your things, be cognizant of the fact that we have this coronavirus. So if there are people in line next to you or sitting next to you that are really coughing or look sick, you probably need to leave that area. Wash your hands frequently – we can’t stress that enough. Wash your hands and not touch your face. Try not to hug your friends when you see them or no handshaking now. You know, we do the elbow bump or the foot bump or the little wave. So I think that there are other ways that we can say hello to each other without shaking hands and that’s important. But I think we should eat out, have fun, continue to be aware of what’s going on but not panicked or frightened by it.

What about animals? Are pets at risk?

Dr. Ringenberg: I’m not aware of that. To me, it’s people to people transmission. But that’s a good question for your vet. There could be some coronaviruses but I don’t think this COVID-19, although it is new, I think it’s people to people.

Dr. Trehy: Most of the time, these diseases that get transferred to us, it’s not pathologic to the animal. So what we understand with the COVID virus is, this is not a problem for our pets.

Is there anything we can take to help us not get coronavirus?

Dr. Ringenberg: I think (it’s a) kinda common sense thing. Staying healthy, getting good rest, good diet, good veggies – fruits and veggies. And yes, Vitamin C is not going to hurt. I don’t know that’ it’s going to help, there’s no science on that for this virus but it certainly won’t hurt. But I think the biggest thing is just staying healthy. Get your exercise in, rest, fluids, all those kind of things we do to stay healthy.

Are there risks going to places like Disney or other theme parks in Florida?

Dr. Ringenberg: I told someone this morning, but it was because her mother was immunocompromised, that I don’t think going to Disney or Universal Studios or any area where there are a lot of people is smart at this point, if you can postpone it. If you’re immunocompromised or have a chronic disease, it’s really honestly better to just postpone it. Better safe than sorry. But if you do go, you’re healthy and go with your kids, again just the hand washing and all those things we just talked about.

What extra precautions should those with compromised immune systems take?

Dr. Trehy: Probably best for them not to go into these densely-populated areas where, as we mentioned earlier, the incubation period – you don’t know that you have it maybe up to two weeks. So you may not realize it and go to a densely-populated area and then wind up transferring it. And those compromised individuals…they would be wiser to stay out of those type of arrangements. If you can’t avoid it, definitely wash your hands frequently and avoid your face. Whether or not they would wear a mask, maybe in the predicament but it would be wiser to stay out of it.

How do I know if I have the coronavirus vs. the flu?

Dr. Trehy: What we’re asking people to do, of course, if you have a temperature of 100 or more, have a sore throat, cough or shortness of breath that’s unusual to please call your physician. Let them help guide you and do evaluations and screen you appropriately.

Dr. Ringenberg: The coronavirus is testing as well now.

Dr. Trehy: What they’re suggesting is if you don’t have any known contact, no unusual travel, that we should definitely go ahead and do a screening test for the influenza A and B. If that happens to be negative, then that may qualify for then the coronavirus screening.

What is the best cleaner to use on surfaces? Is there a best cleaner?

Dr. Trehy: Just that (cleaner with) 60 percent or more alcohol. That will take care of it.

Dr. Ringenberg: I don’t think brand names matter.

Dr. Trehy: They have hydrogen peroxide wipes that are 10 percent hydrogen peroxide that are good. But any brand of wipes would be effective that says 99.9 percent effective against viruses.

Is it true we would need to be around an infected person for 10 minutes in order to be at risk?

Dr. Ringenberg: I’m not sure there’s a definite answer but I would think if you’re around somebody for a very short period of time that has obviously got a cough or runny nose or looks sick, your chances of picking up coronavirus is much (lower.)

Dr. Trehy: Just use good common sense.

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